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CBS News poll: Republicans weigh in on Liz Cheney and direction of GOP

▶ Watch Video: Cheney’s ouster leaves Republican Party divided

When House Republicans ousted Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership post, it spoke to the direction of the Republican Party in at least one specific way: what should happen to those who publicly break with former President Donald Trump? So, we surveyed the nation’s self-identified Republicans to learn what they thought of the week’s events. They still very much want their party to show loyalty to Mr. Trump and adhere to the idea that President Biden didn’t legitimately win. 

Their views on Cheney, in turn, now reflect those wishes.

Eighty percent of Republicans who’d heard about the vote agree with Cheney’s removal — they feel she was off-message, unsupportive of Mr. Trump, and that she’s wrong about the 2020 presidential election. To a third of them, and most particularly for those who place the highest importance on loyalty, Cheney’s removal also shows “disloyalty will be punished.”

Those Republicans opposed to her removal — just a fifth of the party right now — say it’s mainly because there’s room for different views in the party, not all need support Mr. Trump and this was a distraction. But when we look down the line to any potential electoral impact, theirs might be even more limited: this group is also less likely to report voting in Republican primaries.

What does it mean for the party to be loyal to Trump?

Republicans say that Mr. Trump himself represents their views just as well as they think the party does; it’s a personal connection to him we’ve seen for years. Today, loyalty also means they specifically want the party to follow more of the former president’s examples across a range of items, including economics, issues of race and immigration, how to treat the media, using power and leadership, generally. 

Going forward, is the election claim a “litmus test” for Republicans? 

It’s important, but not very important — and not as much as governing. Yes, the Republican rank and file still deny the legitimacy of the election, as they have since last fall, but it’s still far more important to the nation’s Republicans now for their leaders to propose legislation on key issues and to match their voters on policy and on values, than it is to see them claim election fraud. 

Given the way so many Republicans feel about 2020, we wanted to explore the implications of that belief as they strategize for the midterm elections in 2022, as well as the 2024 elections. So, we offered a choice: to succeed next time, do Republicans feel the party needs to focus on message and popular ideas to win over more voters? Or does it already have enough voters, and therefore need to focus on pushing for changes to the voting rules in states and districts instead? 

On balance, message focus barely came out as top priority. Almost half — and especially, for those who believe Mr. Biden didn’t legitimately win — think changing the voting process, rather than messaging, is more important.

The CBS News survey of 951 Republicans in the U.S. was conducted by YouGov between May 12-14 2021. This sample was selected from self-identified Republicans (including Republicans and Republican-leaners) who had completed a previous CBS News national poll in 2021. The sample was weighted to be representative of Republicans in the previous national polls, according to gender, age, race, education, geographic region, 2020 presidential vote, political ideology, and degree of partisan Identification. The margin of error is  +/- 3.5 pts.

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